“Peterborough’s children’s services cabinet member Sheila Scott has said it became apparent a few weeks after the death of Tyler Whelan that there had been failures in the department charged with looking after vulnerable children in the city.
A Serious Case Review by the Peterborough Safeguarding Children Board has highlighted a series of failures in Peterborough City Council’s children’s services department in the handling of the Tyler case. Interim children’s services director Malcolm Newsam said on Monday that there were two opportunities where more action could have been taken prior to Tyler’s death in March 2011”
The Cabinet Member for Childrens Services Sheila Scott is currently unavailable for comment, so here is a BBC interview she attended after an unsatisfactory Ofsted report in May 2010, alongside her then Director, John Richards, subsequently himself sacked after a further damning Ofsted report in September 2011.
08:35 Monday 24th May 2010
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: Parts of Peterborough’s services for children in care have been labelled as inadequate by the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted. The service was voted as good in 21 categories, 9 were judged as adequate, and 3 categories were deemed as inadequate Joining us now is John Richards, Peterborough City Council’s Director of Children’s Services, and Councillor Sheila Scott is the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at the Council. So guys, who’s fault is this? Who shall I start with? Shall I start with you John? Is it your fault?
JOHN RICHARDS: What I’d like to say is that the Ofsted inspection commented particularly on a single incident that happened in December and January. This was to do with the assessment and referrals service, as you will have found if you read the report. And during that period a backlog of cases arose, which then led to me telling Ofsted and the Government office that in fact I’d got a problem in referral and assessment at the front door. I put an action plan in place during that period, and Ofsted in their report commented that it was a robust management action had been taken, and that by the time that they left, we were back to allocating cases properly. So this is a point in time. But clearly during that point in time, we did potentially leave children at risk. And what I’d like to say to the population in Peterborough is that I’m very sorry that happened, but I did take action. And since that time we have been allocating properly. When Ofsted came in, what they had to do really in terms of their judgement, was to say that because of that backlog, they had to give us an inadequate. And that led to an overall judgement of inadequate. But as you rightly say, we had 21 judgements of good. And so for the first time in Peterborough’s history, children in care have actually been judged a good service.
PAUL STAINTON: So what you’re saying is this was a one-off.
JOHN RICHARDS: It was a one-off.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s not a reflection of the overall services you provide.
JOHN RICHARDS: It’s not an overall reflection, and Ofsted has made it clear in the report that Children’s Services overall have made many improvements over the last couple of years, and that this was a one-off, which I told them about, and of course they then looked at the action I’d taken to see whether or not it was robust and proper.
PAUL STAINTON: What areas were inadequate?
JOHN RICHARDS: It was the allocation of referrals to social workers. So in effect, what wasn’t happening during that four week period was that referrals were being allocated in the proper amount to social workers. So we weren’t visiting children that we should have been.
PAUL STAINTON: So you were leaving children to their own devices basically.
JOHN RICHARDS: We were leaving children without ..
PAUL STAINTON: At risk.
JOHN RICHARDS: Potentially at risk. The report if very clear that they were potentially at risk. What I can tell you is that we had allocated all of those cases by March 17th.
PAUL STAINTON: Butthose children you’re talking about, they wouldn’t have been known to you if they weren’t at risk, would they?
JOHN RICHARDS: They weren’t known to us. They were referrals to us.
PAUL STAINTON: But they wouldn’t have been referred unless they were at risk.
JOHN RICHARDS: No, not true. They could have been referred for a service. They weren’t necessarily at risk.
PAUL STAINTON: Right.
JOHN RICHARDS: What I can assure you and the listening public, is that all of those children were seen. None of them were deemed at risk of harm, and any actions that needed to be taken to provide services to those families were provided.
PAUL STAINTON: Sheila, are you confident that the services is better than it was when this report was put together?
SHEILA SCOTT: I want to say, first of all, as John has said, we got it wrong. I take responsibility for that. John and his team worked speedily to put it right. I’m confident now that we’re in … that we have moved forward. And I think Ofsted were, at the end of their inspection, confident that we’ve moved forward. For me, my task now is working with John and his department to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
PAUL STAINTON: And some Council workers have lost their jobs over this, haven’t they?
SHEILA SCOTT: Indeed they have. Yes. We will not tolerate this sort of incident. I do want to say though Paul if I might that once John and his department realised what had happened, they didn’t wait. They moved speedily, both with regard to asking staff to leave, but also they moved very very speedily to move staff into the department who could deal with the matter.
PAUL STAINTON: And John, this must have been a very difficult time for you and your staff, and managing that transition. And we’re confident now that everything’s been sorted, and kids in Peterborough are being looked after as they should be.
JOHN RICHARDS: Well I’m confident that the children in care are being looked after perfectly, because that’s what was being said by Ofsted. What I would say is social workers are still under pressure. But we are allocating appropriately and timely, and that’s what Ofsted said as they left. It was a difficult time for the whole department, and we are moving forward and I am confident that our services will improve .. continue to improve as they have been shown by Ofsted to have done so far.